About the Manual

The Nerd Manual is meant to be both a useful resource for nerds and a guide for the people involved with nerds. If you're a nerd you can find information here that will help you improve your life and perhaps better understand yourself. If you're close friends with, dating, or married to a nerd, I want to give you insight into things nerds do that a lot of people have difficulty understanding.

I hope to avoid offending anyone--either nerd or non-nerd--but please understand that the manual will get into some sensitive topics, stray into contentious territories, and even use stereotypes to illustrate points. It's OK to disagree with something, but keep your comments civil.


Nerd Q&A: How do I Impress a Popular Girl (or Guy)?

This is a real-life question from Quora. I've heard it a lot in various forms, and even asked it myself, so I think it's worth answering.

Elijah asked, "how can a nerd like me impress some popular girl without making a fool out of myself?"

There are lots of good answers about talking and listening, which are perfectly valid, but if you're a nerd you should approach this systematically.

Refine your goal:

Impressing "some popular girl" is really broad and actually simple. Making an impression on a random person isn't a challenge, but I can read between the line and realize you must want something more specific than that, so refine your goal. Do you want to start a friendship with someone popular? Do you want to start a romantic relationship with a specific popular girl? Be specific for yourself because you need to gather information to reach your goal.

Analyze needs and benefits:

Let's consider a situation where you want to start a friendship (that might become a romantic relationship) with a specific popular girl. There are two people involved: you and the girl. What are each person's needs and how can they be met? Your side of the analysis is easy to figure out--you want to be around someone who is popular and possibly attractive, and she automatically fills those needs. Don't stop there, consider what your other needs are-- for example, you want someone to watch superhero movies with you. Will she meet these needs?

Her side of the equation will take some research on your part--observe her, talk with people who know her, and talk with her. Don't just walk up and ask, "what do you want from a relationship?" (although this is a good question to ask after you have spoken with each other a few times and are comfortable around each other.) Ask some subtle questions like, "how are you doing in math this term?" or, "do you think Hollywood is overdoing it with the superhero movies?" These kinds of questions will tell you if she needs help in a particular subject area, if she watches superhero movies or thinks they're stupid. Using the information you gather, you can figure out her needs and determine if you can meet them.

Devise an algorithm - Refine through iteration:

Initially, approach the girl the same way you would approach one of your friends (if you're a guy, imagine she's just another guy), this will keep everything balanced when starting out--you will have a stable position and also not appear creepy. You can actually form a very close friendship with someone just by fulfilling one or two minor needs. Start with easy things like offering brainpower on specific topics that her other friends are unfamiliar with or providing a different perspective on popular culture and fashion. As you fill these surface needs, talk with her. Listen to her. Pay attention and learn about her other needs. Evaluate your ability to fill them. This is where you start to impress her. Anyone smart can tutor her in physics, but not everyone can engage her interests. Keep up this process of listening and assessing. If you are fortunate, she will enjoy a lot of the same things you enjoy and you can do them together.

Congratulations! You've impressed the popular girl. 

Include an interrupt:

If you find yourself in a negative-sum relationship, disengage and start over with someone else. Signals of a bad friendship include things like: you do her homework for her while she goes out with other people, you're only allowed around her when no one she knows is around, or she talks about her interests but never wants to hear about yours. It's easy to believe that all you need is a pretty girlfriend, but you really should look for more out of a relationship than a popularity boost or eye candy. Be fair though, tell her about things you would like in your friendship and give her a chance to provide them or not. If she can't or won't meet your needs, adjusting a relationship doesn't have to be traumatic. It's OK to be direct but polite--point out her good qualities, then explain that you need to spend some time with other people who will meet your needs.

Know when to stop:

If she makes it clear that she has no interest in you, walk away. Pushing yourself on people is bad behavior and makes them feel uncomfortable. Even if she's not interested now, you want this girl to be comfortable with you because the situation might change in the near future.

Signs she has no interest in you:
she says she's not interested
she rolls her eyes when she sees you approaching
she moves away from you
she makes excuses not to do things with you


Popularity changes rapidly and takes a lot of time and effort to control. A person who only cares about popularity won't have a lot of time for you.
Be honest: if you're pretending to like things, or hiding things you do like, then you're deceiving this girl and yourself. At some point she will find out you're being dishonest and she won't be happy about it, so save yourself some heartache and start off being honest.
Make sure you know what you really want. Hint: it's not a person, it's what the person does for you.
Make sure you're getting what you really want, and that the other person honestly wants to give it to you.

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